I've been a broadcaster for 17 years, but Sunday's Academy Awards pre-show "Live From The Red Carpet" on Oscar.com was the first time I've ever hosted a show on the web. It was an eye opening experience to say the least, for me...
While most of the televised pre-shows have a live element, ours was a two hour live event with no commercials, no teleprompter, no seven second delay, so essentially, no net. We used broadcast quality cameras and technology so what you saw on our site was as clear as what you'd see on your flat screen and our webcast, produced by ABC, was groundbreaking!
Through Facebook, we were able to take questions from viewers at home and ask them to the stars on the red carpet in real time. Pretty cool stuff.
When a fan wrote the following question of Amanda Seyfried, it led to a very funny and surprising answer... "Were you a fan of Nicholas Sparks before you did Dear John?" ...refering to the author of the novel her film was based on. She told the story of meeting him on location and gushing that she was a fan and loved one book of his in particular. Only problem was, he didn't write it- she got him confused with quite a different author, James Patterson!
Because our webcast was live, there was no telling what stars we would get to our stage, so basically I prepared for two weeks to interview any nominee or presenter who could end up on our show.
I watched all the films that were nominated and read as much background info as I could to prep for any possibility, but being live, there were plenty of surprises...
Early in the show Wolfgang Puck marched onto our stage with food trays and mini Oscar chocolates in hand. When he left I looked at the 6" Academy he'd left me with, and then over at my shorter co-host, Brett Chukerman, and blurted out, "Look, he's as tall as you!"
I couldn't believe I just teased this guy about his height, live on camera. I felt like I shot a puppy.
Later in the show, Matt Damon came on to our stage. After we exchanged a kiss on the cheek, he explained to my co-host that we "knew each other in a previous life." This led to immediate buzz on the internet- did we used to date??? How do they know each other? What did he mean by "another life"? I was bombarded with email and texts....that's the power of streaming live online.
BTW, no, we never dated -- he lived in Boston when I was a new broadcaster at New England Sports Network and we have mutual friends in the sports world. I also dated his agent years ago, "in a previous life."
Other things that helped to make our red carpet coverage different than the other shows were the streaming posts on the right margin of the screen allowing viewers to comment on our interviews and banter during the show, and the ability to get the biggest stars of the night because the show was co-produced by The Academy itself. It's kinda awkward though when you have so many A-listers lined up to be interviewed that you have to speed through an interview with Mariah Carey to get to Jennifer Lopez and then to wrap her up quickly to bring on Quentin Tarentino. Nothing like cutting off one of the world's greatest directors 'cause we have a hard out.
I honestly almost didn't take the gig when I got the offer- I had never done a "webcast" before, but after learning more about new media and its huge impact on how we watch big events and how as a reporter we can cover them better, I'm sold.
I finally joined the new millennium last week by putting up a Facebook page and am starting to produce video blogs to post here and at LisaGuerrero.com. It's exciting to know that we can create and control the content on our own sites and not to always be at the mercy of a network or news director. Finally, "Live From The Red Carpet" was a huge success for ABC.com. Estimated traffic at Oscar.com during "Live From The Red Carpet was exceptional and the Facebook element allowed viewers to feel like they were interacting with their favorite stars.
Getting dolled up and rubbing elbows with the starts at awards shows just got a lot more interesting, and apparently, a lot more viewers.